Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A gender diversity audit of the New Statesman's home page

Disclaimer this post is not an attack on the New Statesman as i v enjoy that site & its coverage of feminist issues. It was prompted by a reader's comment about how it over-represents women's issues, which I also read as over representing women's voices and experiences.

Last week, some of you may know that the New Statesman dedicated some time to talking about men.


Unfortunately interesting articles about masculinity and men's roles were hijacked in the comments by MRA types. But it was one comment in particular on the linked article above that caught my eye. It was from one Robert Taggart and said:

'This all makes an interesting change...
From talking about Women and their interminable 'problems' !'

Hmm, I thought. Does the New Statesman really spend all that much time talking about women and our interminable problems? And what are our interminable problems? Male violence against women and girls? Gendered nature of poverty? Cultural femicide? I mean, they're quite serious problems and although they get an airing on the New Statesman I wouldn't say the content was overwhelmingly biased to these issues.

But you know me - never one to trust a hunch. So I've spent a productive evening going through every single article featured on the New Statesman home page just to see how much space is given to women, and our interminable problems.

This isn't an attack on the New Statesman. It was just prompted by that comment. I read the website a lot and love the blogs.

Here are a few points to understand about my quick audit.

I came up with the following categories to measure gender diversity:

About 'women's problems' written by woman/women
About women's problems wrtten by man/men
About 'men's problems' writen my women/woman
About men's problems written by man/men
About non gendered issues, written by man/men
About non gendered issues, written by woman/women
About non gendered issues but focus is on man/men
About non gendered issues but focus is on woman/women
Article is illustrated by man/men
Article is illustrated by women/woman
Article is not illustrated
Article quotes men/man
Article quotes women/woman
Article is illustrated by mix of people or no people
Men and women are quoted in the article
There are no quotes in the article
The article doesn't focus on men or women/man or woman
No named author
No named quotes

I then looked at every article featured on the New Statesman home page at 7pm on Tuesday 29th May. If an article was linked to twice I only counted it once. There may be some errors where I forgot to count a 'no quotes' or 'no illustration'. Easy to miss!

I measured my categories as follows:

In the women's problems section I included: sex industry, representation of women, VAWG, women's poverty, child care, gender pay gap, feminism, women in conflict, women's health

In the men's problems section I included: masculinity, men's rights, health, men's unemployment, paternal rights, violence against men, representation of men

I counted as non gendered issues: economy, Leveson, global warming, Jewish history, UK politics, global politics, reviews, crime, migration issues, science and tech, business news,media, world affairs.

People who the article could be focusing on included: politicians, media types, judges, leaders, film directors, writers, scientists, business leaders, musician or other cultural types, interviewee who is a member of the public

So! What were the results?

Well, unsurprisingly, Robert Taggart's belief that the New Statesman talks too much about women wasn't true. Although none of the home page articles actually talked about men's problems specifically, men were dominant as writers, as quoted sources, as topic of the article and most articles were illustrated by men. Of the few articles illustrated by women one of them was a group of Playboy bunnies. No men were pictured in a sexualised manner needless to say!


About 'women's problems' written by woman/women                2     
About women's problems wrtten by man/men                           0
About 'men's problems' writen my women/woman                    0
About men's problems written by man/men                               0
About non gendered issues, written by man/men                      43     
About non gendered issues, written by woman/women            21     
About non gendered issues but focus is on man/men               38     
About non gendered issues but focus is on woman/women       9     
Article is illustrated by man/men                                             31     
Article is illustrated by women/woman                                   10     
Article is not illustrated                                                           4     
Article quotes men/man                                                        35     
Article quotes women/woman                                               11     
Article is illustrated by mix of people or no people                 25     
Men and women are quoted in the article                                1     
There are no quotes in the article                                           12     
The article doesn't focus on men or women/man or woman    19     
No named author                                                                    9     
No named quotes                                                                   5    

As you can see, over twice the number of articles are written by men. Nearly four times the number of articles focus on men rather than women. Men are illustrated over 3 times more than women. And the same number applies to quotes.

Proving that, on this day at least, men are being well represented by the New Statesman (and all the other news outlets) and women's problems, voices, faces and stories are, where they normally are - i.e. not very present.

Robert Taggart - take note.


shreeno said...

I love how thorough and methodical you are! Really refreshing to see. Unsurprising results though.

One point I've been pondering recently, forgive me if it's a little basic: I think most people would agree that men's issues and women's issues are framed differently in the media. Men's issues are not gendered as such, and women's issues are highly gendered. (Perhaps it's partially to do with the way we might view male = human and universal, and woman = woman).

So I do think sometimes some in the feminist community have not been willing to listen to the male voice enough, assuming that universal news is *good enough* for men. Of course there are so many trolls, both online and in real life, who hijack discussions in unhelpful ways. I'm not talking about them.

I'm talking about the general impression I get that important male voices are not being listened to for fear that they are trolling. I'm talking about the way we continue to perpetuate this notion that men's issues do not need to be gendered to be heard, that they're already being listened to by the mainstream press. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. But I don't see this discussion taking place in an open, inquistive manner where minds are not already made up.

I do like some of the stuff Vagenda have written on their blog, but their piece on the NS was really hostile and defensive, despite the underlying message being to stop framing everything as a battle of the sexes.

It seemed to be stoking even more argument when it had the potential to calm everyone by being the first to put the guns down. Oh well.

But there were certainly some really shitty comments in the mix as well, there's no denying that. Just seen one about how men have built every building in every city in the world, but no reply button to respond, arrghh! Seems they've closed it to new comments. It's given me a great idea for an article...

sian and crooked rib said...

thanks Shreeno

I do actually need to write a follow up to this about the different framing of men's and women's issues - how men are news and women are 'life and style'. So i imagine a lot of people see economy and politics as men issues when actually they are everyone's issues.

One thing i really liked about the men's week on the NS was that it gave a voice to men's issues as men's issues rather than the universal. there does need to be this space and it needs to be open and not trolled by anti women MRA types. Which, unfortunately, it almost always is.

looking forward to seeing your article!

galatea said...

Hi Sian,

Thanks for doing this, it made really interesting reading. Being a politics-focused website, we do face a constant struggle not to have a homepage full of men in suits!


sian and crooked rib said...

Helen - absolutely! i need to do a follow up post on how this is just one side of the coin - how we need to ask questions about women's representation on a major scale. Why is politics so male domainted? why is economy, business, science, film, etc etc so male dominated? the fact that so many of the non gendered issues are about men and illustrated by men isn't because the New Statesman ignores women (it doesn't particularly in my experience, better than other sites and worse than some!) but because this huge gaping inequality exists.

I think the media has a role to play in encouraging women's representation and encouraging women's voices and experiences. But when you go through the site and so many of the articles are about this Secretary of State and that Cabinet Minister - and they're all men? That's the problem.

Because when you look at interviews and reviews, women are better represented.

So, follow up post coming (but maybe not today!)